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Free Firewood: 4 Options for Finding and Harvesting Your Own Firewood

4 Ways to Get Free Firewood this Winter

I had never had a wood burning fireplace before so my thoughts danced as my mom suggested that we try out our new fireplace.

But little did we know that there was more to burning wood than what met the eye. My dreams of a Christmas card setting with a beautiful brick hearth and a gorgeous glow from the fire went right out the window as our house quickly filled with smoke.

Oddly enough, my mom didn’t know to open the damper. We spent the rest of the evening sitting on the front porch waiting for the smoke detectors to quit blaring and the thick cloud of smoke to leave.

This story is funny to me now as we burn wood throughout the winter. As an adult, I now have a woodstove that keeps our home nice and toasty.

But every year as we gather wood, I can’t help but think back and life to my childhood story.

So as I give you all the details on how to gather your own wood for burning, I wish you lots of funny stories and great memories of your own.

Hopefully, you won’t have to spend any evenings on your front porch waiting for the smoke to clear.

Option #1: Gather Wood from Your Own Property

1. Get the Trees Down

If you have a set of trees you want to be removed, then you’ll need to decide if you want to remove them yourself or hire someone to remove them for you.

Our general rule is if the tree is small enough then my husband will take it down.

Now, we had a tree last year that had died and was huge. It was right over our house and had it fallen it would have crushed our home and killed anything in its path.

That was a tree that we hired someone to take out for us. There was just too much at stake.

So you’ll need to decide if you think you are skilled enough to take a tree down yourself based upon the individual situation. Just remember to use extreme caution. Falling trees can be deadly work.

But if you need to know how to cut trees down yourself here is a great step by step tutorial to help you with that.

2. Cut Up the Tree

Once the trees are down, the work gets a little more manageable. It needs to be mentioned that you still need to use extreme caution when using an axe or a chainsaw.

Using a chainsaw in this matter will obviously be much easier and faster. However, if you have an axe that is up to the task then it can still be used.

You will start at the base of the tree and begin cutting. Then work your way up to the limbs.

Now, when you get to the really stubby material that won’t make good firewood, we actually chip it and use it as mulch.

3. Gather the Small Wood

You’ll need to begin gathering the smaller wood. This is the wood that won’t have to be split and can fit into your fireplace or woodstove as is.

When you gather it you’ll need to stack it in a place that it can season. This place will vary depending upon what time of year you are gathering firewood.

A lot of people will fell trees in the spring, cut up the wood, and then stack it neatly outdoors for it to season.

But sometimes, they aren’t able to get the trees down until fall. If that is the case, then you’ll need to stack it in a dry place so it can dry out faster.

4. Split the Larger Wood

The larger wood that was left behind will need to be split. You can do this with an axe or a log splitter. A wood splitter is obviously going to be the most efficient option.

However, they are expensive and are powered by gas which is a turn off for some people.

So if you have an axe and choose that option that will still get the job done. Once you get the larger logs busted into manageable sizes then you’ll need to stack them as well.

Again, you can stack these outdoors if they have most of the year to season, or you can stack them inside your woodshed if you want them to go ahead and be put up for the year.

Plus, it is also good to store wood in a dry location if you waited until later in the year to harvest your wood for winter.

Option #2: Visit Your Local Saw Mill

photo by twsawmill.com

photo by twsawmill.com

This is by far my favorite option for harvesting wood. It still isn’t the most desirable job in the world, but this definitely takes a lot of the work out of it.

1. Visit Your Local Saw Mill

You will begin by needing to locate the closest saw mill to you. Once you’ve found it, you’ll need to go by and speak with the owner.

Now, most saw mills have rough slabs that they keep stacked somewhere. It is basically thick cuts of wood with bark on it that they couldn’t use to make quality products out of it.

However, I am a huge fan of slabs as we use them to build lots of projects. And the best part is that they are usually free.

So once you speak with the owner to verify that they do keep a slab pile and that they will let you collect them for free (which most will in order to keep their mill clean) then you are ready to roll.

2. Get a Truck, Trailer, and Chain Saw

I highly recommend that you use a chain saw for this job. It just makes it so much easier.

Once you have your tools, you’ll need to use a truck and trailer so you can gather as much wood as possible per trip.

Then you’ll go to the slab pile and begin cutting the slabs down to the proper size. As you can tell already, this takes a lot of the ‘harvesting’ work out of it.

So once you have cut your wood down to size and have loaded your truck and trailer you are ready to head home.

3. Stack Your Wood

Once you get your wood home you’ll need to stack it neatly. It just makes life easier.

So you can stack it outdoors if you collected wood early enough in the season. But if you waited a little later to collect firewood just go and ahead and stack it in a dry area.

To make life easier, here is a link to great shed plans. After you complete the task of stacking, your wood is ready to be burned when the temperature is right.

Option #3: Pallets

photo by ehow.com

photo by ehow.com

If you’ve read this blog very long, then you all know I have a love for pallets. They are great materials to build with.

But have you ever considered them for firewood?

Well, if not, you should now.

1. Check Online and Collect

You begin harvesting pallets for firewood by first checking online. You can check sites like Craig’s List (and other local yard sale pages) to see if any companies are offering free pallet delivery.

Yes, that actually exists.

They are basically large companies that have a ton of pallets. It is cheaper for them to deliver these pallets to you than to hire a company to dispose of the unwanted pallets for them.

So you reap the benefits.

However, if you don’t have any of these companies around you, you can always check with any larger freight company or smaller business that gets items shipped to them (like a local nursery) to see if you can take their pallets off of their hands for them.

Then you’ll need to go pick them up and grab as many as you possibly can because firewood doesn’t go bad.

Now is a good time to mention, be sure to check that the pallets weren’t treated with any type of chemical. If so, don’t burn them. It is ill-advised to do so.

2. Deconstruct the Pallets

When you get your pallets home you’ll need to begin pulling them apart. You can do this with a hammer by pulling all of the nails off of the base of the pallet.

Then you’ll need to cut the larger parts of the pallet down to more manageable sizes.

Finally, you’ll stack your wood in the desired location. And that is all there is to harvesting pallets as firewood.

3. Run a Magnet Over the Ashes

The only drawback to burning pallets as firewood is that it is hard to get all of the nails out of the wood.  But don’t let that deter you from using them.

However, if you are someone that uses your wood ash as fertilizer then you probably won’t want nails out in your garden.

So if that is the case, all you have to do is run a magnet over your ashes to pull all of the nails out. Then toss the ashes out over your garden to fertilize it.

And you are good to go!

Option #4: Call on Your Local Tree Trimmer

1. Check Online

My husband’s day job requires that he goes into other people’s homes. It is actually rather interesting because he gets to meet a wide variety of people.

Well, one person he met was someone that owned a local tree trimming service. He brought it to our attention that if you check online many tree companies advertise free firewood.

Yes, free firewood!

And that isn’t all. They will deliver the firewood and it will already be cut for you.

So check online with Craigslist and local yard sale pages to see if anyone is advertising delivery or even pick-up of free firewood.

2. Accept the Firewood

Once you’ve located a place that will either deliver or allow you to pick-up free firewood, you’ll need to call and check with them to get your name in the pot.

Once they have you down and you’ve made arrangements, you’ll need to either go pick it up or wait for them to deliver it.

In the meantime, make sure you have adequate space to store it.

3. Go Through the Firewood

When the tree service delivers the firewood you’ll need to go through it. You will get a variety of different types of wood.

So keep in mind that some may be pine and other varieties of wood that you wouldn’t want to burn regularly in your fireplace or woodstove.

Once you’ve gone through the wood to make sure you’ve discarded anything unsafe to burn, then you’ll need to stack the wood in its desired location.

Remember though, wood needs time to season. So be sure that your wood is no longer green before burning. There are safety issues with burning green wood.

Well, there are four solid options for harvesting your own firewood each year. Some are easier than others.

However, some of the options may require more work, but they also have stood the test of time. So the option you choose is up to you.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you harvest your firewood each year? Which option do you think is the best? Why?



  1. how about checking at construction sites near your home. off-cuts from dimensional lumber are common as well as other things like partial sheets of plywood for homestead projects.

    • Emmer, you will want to know that the construction material is not “treated” for outdoor/moisture area use. The chemicals are not safe to inhale during burning, and some people have an allergic reaction to touching it.

  2. I like the idea of the tree trimming companies. Where I used to live one of the big tree trimming companies had a place the dumped their left overs for you to pick up any time. I drove by it everyday for work and there was always a stash and people picking through it. It wasn’t alway cut to the right size but it was FREE!!

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